If there was one thing in this world that Steve hated more than ice, it was waiting. He hated pacing, the tense, almost heavy weight that rested on his shoulders. There was no easy way of deciding this; he wanted to do what was right by Bucky.
“I don’t know my own mind,” Bucky said sadly, looking up at Steve from his seat on the medic’s bed, “I don’t wanna hurt anyone, so until they can get that shit outta my head –
“Buck, there has to be another way,” Steve said gently, pleading with his best friend not to do this, “we could stay here, it’s the only safe place for us at the moment, but you don’t need to go…under again.”
Bucky chuckled, standing up to grasp Steve’s shoulder, “you were always such a little punk, Stevie.”
Steve melted into his touch, smiling sadly, eyes watering, “still am Buck. Still am, only you seem to see that.”
Then all of a sudden, Bucky pulled Steve close into an almost bone crushing hug. They’d hugged on that carrier and exchanged memories, thoughts and jokes, happy to be in each other’s presence before everything went to Hell when they found that video. But they hadn’t had a proper reunion, one where Steve could bury his face in Bucky’s shoulder and let the tears flow, where he could cry openly, body trembling in Bucky’s strong embrace.
“I don’t wanna lose you again,” Steve mumbled, his sobs were muffled by Bucky’s shirt, “I can’t. I won’t.”
“Stevie, you just got me back, I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” Bucky replied softly, holding his friend close, “not without you.”
“Then don’t do this,” Steve begged, eyes shiny with tears, leaning back to look at him, “please.”
“Steve,” Bucky sighed, hating the broken expression playing on Steve’s face, “you’ve already done so much, your friends and –
“You’re my friend,” Steve insisted, “you’re my best friend; my…you’re everythin’ Buck.”
“No, I need to say this,” Steve mumbled, red cheeked and shy, “I was an idiot for not tellin’ you earlier, I should’ve…Peggy she knew. She – that kiss with Sharon, it meant nothin’. I liked Sharon, but not like…not like that. I loved Peggy, yes, I always will, but Bucky I love you.”
“Steve don’t say things –
“Don’t say things like what Buck?” Steve asked, frowning, “like you’re dyin’? Like I’m never gonna see you again? Anythin’ could happen to you. What if somethin’ goes wrong? What if you shut down, if you go for good? I can’t lose you again. I already lost you once and then again on that bridge, and then at the apartment. I can’t keep losin’ you. I can’t keep lettin’ you go. Stop lettin’ me go, Buck.”
“Oh, Steve,” Bucky said softly, sadly, “’m not lettin’ you go –
“Then what are you doin’? You’re leavin’ again. You’re goin’ under for what? We’re safe here Buck. T’Challa is gonna make sure of that,” Steve snapped, he was getting angrier as each second past.
“Steve, I don’t know my own mind, I don’t know what will trigger me,” Bucky sighed, running a hand through his lush locks, “you gotta understand –
“No!” Steve near yelled, though it sounded like a broken sob, “no. I fought so hard to get you back, to have you here, to save you…like you did for me all those years. I can’t let you down again, I can’t, I can’t –
“Steve,” Bucky said, heart clenching in his chest, pulling Steve back into his embrace, “you haven’t let me down, silly punk. You never do.”
“Then, don’t leave me, please don’t leave me,” Steve whispered, crying into Bucky’s shoulder, “I love you, I love you, I always have. If you don’t then...”
“Don’t even think about finishin’ that damn sentence,” Bucky growled, “of course I love you too. I shoulda told you before the war, before everythin’…got so fuckin’ messed up.”
“Then stay, please,” Steve begged, looking up at Bucky with wide, teary eyes, “please Buck, I can’t take it. I can’t go through this again, don’t make me go through this again. When I came back and you weren’t here I wanted to…I tried to…but I couldn’t. Peggy kept me goin’, and now she’s gone. But now, you’re goin’, don’t leave me please. If you go, I don’t know what I’ll do; I don’t think I could handle it. If you don’t come back, if they don’t find a-a…and you just…what if you don’t wake up?”
Bucky cupped Steve’s face, wiping away the tears there, “now you listen to me, don’t you dare start thinkin’ like that. Don’t please, Stevie. You can’t just live for me, you have your whole life, don’t let it go. Fuck, Steve, don’t start thinkin’ like that. I can’t –
“Then why are you doin’ this?” Steve asked, his voice shaking.
“…for God sake Steve, to keep people safe…to keep you safe, Steve!” Bucky snapped, immediately regretting it when Steve jumped back.
Though the both of them had taken the serum (Bucky’s obviously having been different), they were both about the same height, sometimes Bucky appeared taller than Steve and sometimes it was the other way round. Either way, though they were the same height, Bucky was bulker than Steve, broader perhaps and where Steve was fine muscle, Bucky was all energy, large. And that meant he was bigger than Steve, knocking him backwards, stumbling on his feet.
“And you think that by leavin’ me, you’re keepin’ me safe?” Steve retorted, eyes tearing up again, spilling over his cheeks, “you think that by doin’ this, this is gonna change things? It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t but punishin’ yourself, why?”
“Steve, I remember…what they made me do. It wasn’t me. I know that, but it was out of my control, and I still remember their faces, the soldier tore them apart,” Bucky growled, “Hydra made me kill all those people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilt.”
“And you think that I don’t feel guilt?” Steve said, shrugging himself out of Bucky’s grip, “you think that I don’t think about you, every day, the day I let you…the day you fell. I couldn’t catch you…and if I had, none of this…would’ve happened.”
“No, not Steve, don’t do that –
“Don’t do what? Tell you the truth. You say I can’t live with guilt, that it’s not my fault that I need to live without you?” Steve muttered, face flushed angry, “but you do the same?”
“Steve, please –
“Don’t,” Steve sighed, relenting, “don’t, just don’t. You wanna do this, I can’t stop you. I’m not gonna take your choice away from you. But I know there’s another way. I just know it.”
Bucky stepped forwards, trying to take Steve back into his arms, “please, baby don’t leave it like this.”
Steve shook his head, stumbling until his back hit the wall, “don’t call me that. Don’t fuckin’ call me that if you’re gonna leave, don’t –
Bucky cut Steve off, caging him against the wall, pressing a hard, possessive kiss on Steve’s lips. Bucky gripped Steve’s hip with his one hand and pressed his hips, demanding, against Steve’s, grinding them together. Steve whimpered, pushing back weakly against Bucky’s chest, trying to make Bucky see.
“Buck, stop, don’t do this. If you do this, it means you’re givin’ up, it means you’re goin’ –
Bucky growled and moved his lips against Steve’s, opening up his mouth, to nibble and suck Steve’s bottom lip, that had Steve sighing into the other’s mouth, letting him control the kiss. Steve fisted his hands in Bucky’s shirt and moaned, tears beginning to fall from Steve’s closed eyes, knowing that he could feel Bucky crying too, trembling against him, tears hitting their cheeks.
It was like coming home but leaving at the same time. Everything lit up behind Steve’s eyelids and bloomed in his chest, warm and safe. But it wouldn’t last. Bucky was going, sure he was safe, but he wouldn’t be there. Steve couldn’t talk to him, wouldn’t have this, they wouldn’t be together.
Steve supposed it would have to do for now.
“This isn’t the end, Stevie,” Bucky murmured against Steve’s lips, “I promise, baby.”
Steve shook his head and tried to move away from Bucky but couldn’t, not when he was crowded against the wall, “don’t lie to me. It is.”
“Only for now, Stevie, I promise –
“Uh, I hate to break this up, lovebirds, but company’s here. Frosty may not have to go under.”
And Steve, despite his ill mood, smiled. Thank God for Sam Wilson.